Sat, Nov 29, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Poll shows great support for status quo

SOVEREIGNTY Eighty percent of people polled by the MAC prefer to leave the issue alone, although some wish to preserve the status quo longer than others

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

A poll conducted between Nov. 12 and Nov. 15 -- before the legislature passed a referendum law that allows an independence vote only under very narrow circumstances -- shows that 80 percent of the public prefers Taiwan maintain the status quo regarding its sovereignty.

The poll also shows that those who support maintaining the status quo differ on how long they wish for the status quo to conti-nue.

The poll was published yesterday by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

Past polls conducted by the council on the same issue have showed outcomes similar to the most recent one.

The poll shows that nearly 70 percent of those questioned believe the Chinese authorities have been unfriendly to the government of Taiwan.

Chen Ming-tong (陳明通), the council's vice chairman, while commenting on the likely impact of the passage of the referendum law on cross-strait relations, called for China to better understand Taiwan's push for deeper democracy.

"The government," Chen said, "is clear about its determination to maintain cross-strait peace and stability and defend the country's sovereignty."

"We hope that China can correctly understand the steps Taiwan is taking in the process of its democratization," he said.

"If China will correctly understand these steps," Chen said, "it can avoid causing unnecessary ten-sion."

Chen described China's recent rhetoric on Taiwan's pursuit of a referendum law as "unnecessary comments" that distort Taiwan's efforts to deepen its democracy.

Beijing, which has cast the bid by Taiwan's leaders for a referendum law as a step toward independence, and has threatened to use military force, remained quiet after Thursday's passage of the referendum law.

The Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council, which had warned Taiwan to expect "a strong response" from Beijing if it passed an "unrestricted" referendum law, merely said yesterday that it was "seriously concerned" about the passage of the law.

Beijing's muted response to the controversial bill will not last long, said Philip Yang (楊永明), professor of political science at National Taiwan University.

"The US may have sent behind-the-scenes messages to both Beijing and Taipei over the referendum issue, but it certainly does not want to be looked upon as interfering in the internal affairs of a young democracy like Taiwan's," Yang said.

The US, Yang said, has played the role of a "political balancer" in the controversy surrounding the referendum bill, which has affected trilateral relations between Beijing, Taipei and Washington.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), during his visit to the US next month, will continue asking Washington to intervene in Taiwan's internal affairs, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Parris Chang (張旭成) said in a televised interview.

Admitting the US has expressed concerns over the referendum bill, Chang, a member of the legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee, said Washington worries that the law's passage would give China more ammunition with which to attack Taiwan's moves toward indepen-dence.

"The referendum bill is not China's only concern," Chang said.

"China is also worried President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will be reelected. Making Chen fail in next year's presidential election is China's primary purpose in intervening in the [referendum] issue," Chang said.

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